There are different types of fires: forest fires, range fires, work fires and home fires. Home fires affect people the most. Fire departments in the United States respond to a home fire every 86 seconds. Common causes of house fires are unattended cooking, grease fires, poorly maintained or overloaded electrical systems, candles or other open flames, cigarettes, flammable liquids and aerosols, improperly cleaned or maintained chimneys, ovens, portable heaters, fireplaces, washing machines, dryers, etc. Most house fires are preventable. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 60 percent of house fire deaths are in homes with either no smoke alarm or one that is not working.
Prevention is still the best key. Make sure you have a smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside the bedrooms and near sleeping areas. There should also be a smoke alarm in the kitchen but no closer than 10 feet from the cooking appliances to minimize false alarms when cooking. If you have a basement smoke alarm, it should be placed on the ceiling above the bottom step leading upstairs.
Also, make sure smoke alarms are working correctly by testing them every month and replacing the batteries when needed. When cooking, do not leave the stove unattended, and keep anything that might catch fire away from the stove top. Unplug small appliances, like toasters, when you are not using them. Keep candles several feet from anything that can catch fire and make sure to blow them out when you leave. Teach kids not to play with matches and lighters. Inspect electrical cords and replace any that are damaged or have loose connections. Ask anyone who smokes to smoke outside and have sturdy, deep ashtrays available. If using a portable space heater, make sure it is a least 3 feet away from anything that can burn.
It is also important to have a fire extinguisher in your home just in case of a fire. To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS: P-pull, A-aim, S-squeeze, S-sweep (across the base of the flames). There are several different types of fire extinguishers. The best one for the home is one that covers classes A, B and C.
There are three Ps that can help you be prepared for a house fire: prevent, plan and practice. Teach your kids if a doorknob is hot, to not open the door and if they see smoke to crawl on their hands and knees. Teach your kids not to hide under beds if a fire occurs. Teach your kids how to stop, drop and roll. Teach your children how to call 911, what a fire alarm sounds like and what to do if they hear one. You can also take your kids to the local fire station to meet a firefighter. This will help them know what a firefighter looks like with fire gear on so they won’t be scared. Make a fire escape plan in case there is a fire and practice it at least twice a year so your kids know what to do in the event a house fire occurs.
Candice Hutchins is an RN at the Health West Pediatrics clinic. She has been a nurse for 17 years with most of her experience in postpartum and well-baby nursery.